Listen to as much diverse music as possible. I got stuck in a bit of a rut only listening to my favorite few artists early on and it spilled into my own music, being that I was compared to those artists too much. It took a while to find my own voice because of it. The sooner you can find your own true voice, the faster success will come to you.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Katie Knipp.
A young Elvis was once asked who he sounded like. His reply? “I don’t sound like nobody.” The same could be said for Katie Knipp. This is a woman with the rarest of gifts — her own voice. The Northern California blues/Americana siren is equipped with powerful pipes and an outstanding ability on numerous instruments, from piano to slide guitar to harmonica. Whether performing solo or accompanied by her full band, Knipp unfailingly captures audiences’ hearts from the first note. She’s opened for Robert Cray, Jimmie Vaughan, Joan Osborne, The Hidalgos (David Hidalgo of Los Lobos), The Doobie Brothers, Tim Reynolds, Jon Cleary, Ruthie Foster, Joe Louis Walker, The James Hunter Six, William Duvall of Alice in Chains and many others. She played the 2019 Mammoth Blues Festival as the only solo female act on a bill featuring headliners Buddy Guy, Trombone Shorty, Charlie Musselwhite and more. In both 2019 and 2020, Knipp won the SAMMIE (Sacramento Area Music Award) for Best Blues Artist. Having been honored by the Country Folk Americana Blues Music Realm as Female Artist of the Year in 2020, she was also recently nominated for Artist of The Year by The Sacramento News and Review. She’s gained worldwide radio support, putting her fifth album “Take it With You” at the ninth and tenth positions on the Heatseekers and Blues Albums Billboard charts respectively. It was also listed on the Roots Music Report among the top contemporary blues albums spun for 2018 and 2019. Her sixth studio effort “The Well,” which features special guests Keith Cotton (the musical director and keyboardist for Joan Osborne) and Mick Martin, comes out March 12th.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a suburb of Oakland CA called Concord.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started music around age 8 and sang all throughout school. I later got a BA in music and have been recording and performing professionally the past 20 years as well as teaching piano and voice lessons. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Most people don’t know I sang back up for Barry Manilow at age sixteen for four of his shows at major arenas. Now — I am one of the few independent artists to have hit the Billboard charts for my last 2 albums (The Well and Take it With You).
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Always make sure your gear is completely functional, and you understand how to use it before walking out onto a big stage with it. My foot tambourine fell apart on me mid song because I was unaware of an additional screw that needed tightening. This was when I opened solo for Robert Cray.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
If it’s not always interesting you or exciting, don’t do it, ha ha! I am most excited to get the band back out on stage next month. Some of these songs on the new album are ones that we have never played live together, only recorded them (on The Well) and released them during the pandemic.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
You have to represent all people. One race or culture is not representative of the real world. If people are expected to listen and watch you, you have to be relatable to them.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
#1: Listen to as much diverse music as possible. I got stuck in a bit of a rut only listening to my favorite few artists early on and it spilled into my own music, being that I was compared to those artists too much. It took a while to find my own voice because of it. The sooner you can find your own true voice, the faster success will come to you.
#2: Do not be offended if someone does not like your art. It is very subjective, just like food and wine. There are different palates out there. Your audience will find you if you remain true.
#3: You are the only one truly responsible for your own success, because in the end no one will believe in you as much as you do. Therefore never put all your success eggs in some other person’s basket. Slowly build your team of trusted individuals with their own strengths to bring to the table.
#4: Never give up or assume that you have to quit because your life may change a bit. Before having kids, I used to assume that my career would be “over” if I decided to become a mother. This was not the case, and my real success came afterwards.
#5: Allow yourself the possibility of multiple income streams in music. Think outside the box, teach what you can to others, and be open to new opportunities.
#5.5: Stay away from drugs. All the musicians I have seen struggle in addiction have been slowed down. All the ones that got sober had heaps of success afterwards.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Ask yourself, if you have been doing the same exact thing a little too long ……if it’s not working, think about learning/writing on another instrument, embrace an additional music style, and read more books! Meditate the second your attitude starts to suck. I like the insight timer app. Train your subconscious for success by feeding your brain positive affirmations.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If money were no object, I would require everyone to reside in another country for one year. I believe Americans tend to lose an enormous amount of perspective if they don’t get out of town/state/country enough. Loss of perspective leads to quite a bit of hate and judgement out there.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
So many people! My parents first, who paid for my college , raised me right, and watch my kiddos when I have music events out of town and such. My husband is incredibly supportive. I remember the day I walked out of my banking job to start my own music teaching business and I called him on my cell from my car right after if happened. Our stability was rocked and he could have been pretty upset at me for this huge step, but instead he supported it, knowing how depressed I had become.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Be grateful. Feel the gratitude down to your bones. Without it, nothing matters. Most times my attitude stunk, it was because I was not meditating on gratitude enough.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Lucinda Williams. She keeps getting better with age, and is a great writer! She is a great example of perseverance in the music industry.
How can our readers follow you online?
https://katieknipp.com/ (sign up on the email list!)
https://katieknipp.bandcamp.com/ (buy the stuff! I’ll sign it from here)
https://open.spotify.com/album/4ixVo9D3s3LTRRiyGYgclP?si=a6Oh2x0SQzm-Ie40o89YPA&dl_branch=1 Stream it too! Also on Pandora, Amazon Music, and everywhere else.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!